The Birth of Jesus

Listen.
Far away, the snort of a camel,
The swish of boots in the endless sand,
The whisper of silk and the clatter of ceremonial swords,
Far away.

 Listen.
Not so far, the slam of a castle door,
A cry of rage on the midnight air,
A jangle of spurs and the cold thrust of a soldier’s command,
Not so far.

 Listen.
Closer now, the homely bleat of a ewe among the grasses,
The answering call of her lamb, fresh born,
The rattle of stones on a hillside path,
Closer now.

 Listen.
Closer still, the murmur of women in the dark,
The kindly creak of a stable door,
The steady breathing of the sleepy beasts,
Closer still.

 Listen.
So close you are almost there,
The singing of the stars,
The soundless flurry of wings,
The soft whimper of a child amongst the straw,
So close you are almost there.

(Listen, Clare Bevan)

They made known what had been told them about this child – “

·               What is the story? What did they make known that amazed people?

·               How close are you to that story?

·               Ordinary story of  -

government taxation!
People returning home -  returning to house of David, to Joseph’s family.
A crowded town (we all get crowded at Christmas - I’m moving out tonight!)

·               The ordinary story of a birth – forget the ox and ass and I bet there was a midwife. Bands of cloth are normal – and coming back into fashion.

·               That leaves us with the manger – utterly ordinary.

·               A man becomes a father – a woman becomes a mother – many of us share this experience. A child is born – all of us share this experience.

·               Christ shares our experience – we know what he knew.

“- and all who heard it were amazed.”

·                    It must have been the angels then – the sudden interface between earth and heaven.

·                    How close are we to this? Closer than we think?

·                    The God particle -  and the Chi-b  (beauty, strong force)

·                    From the Guardian: “Shortly after the big bang, it is thought that many particles had no mass, but became heavy later on thanks to the Higgs field. Any particles that interact with this field are given mass. The Higgs boson is the signature particle of the field. What exactly is the Higgs field? A theoretical, invisible energy field that stretches throughout the universe. It clings to fundamental particles wherever they are, dragging on them and making them heavy. Some particles find the field more "sticky" than others. Particles of light – photons – are oblivious to it. Other particles have to wade through it like an elephant in tar. So, in theory, particles can weigh nothing, but as soon as the field switched on shortly after the big bang, they got their mass.”

·                    We should be amazed and excited – but do we really understand it? The language is too complex for most of us.

·                    Or is it? We are all made of particles of the big bang (star dust!)

·                    We are all made in God’s image – so we are particles of God.

·                    Greet The God Particle next to you!

 “Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

·      The language of the incarnation is very nearly as impossible to understand as science

·      From the opening of St John’sGospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.  All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life; and the life was the light of men.  And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”

·      John is grappling with the mystery. That is what we are here to do tonight.

·      We should have a sense of awe and mystery as we think of the Incarnation.

·      from Salus Mundi  by Mary Coleridge : 

“The safety of the world was lying there,

and the world’s danger.”

·      Why? Because God is both the beauty and the strong force – before the bang and the boson!

 And he who each day
reveals a new masterpiece in the sky
and whose joy
can be seen in the eyelash of a child
who when he hears of our smug indifference
can whisper an ocean into lashing fury
and talk tigers into padding roars
This is my God
whose breath is in the wings of eagles
whose power is etched on the crags of mountains

This is the God who become incarnate – embodied, this night, like every one of us. This is the God who invites us to join with him, in this service, not just in theory but truly in his body and blood.

Oldest surviving liturgy of the Church – possible within 50 years of the death of Christ – says:

  Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
            and with fear and trembling stand;
            ponder nothing earthly-minded,
            for with blessing in his hand,
            Christ our God to earth descendeth,
            our full homage to demand. 

  King of kings, yet born of Mary,
            as of old on earth he stood,
            Lord of lords, in human vesture,
            in the body and the blood;
            he will give to all the faithful
            his own self for heavenly food.

            Rank on rank the host of heaven
            spreads its vanguard on the way,
            as the Light of light descendeth
            from the realms of endless day,
            that the powers of hell may vanish
            as the darkness clears away.

             At his feet the six-winged seraph,
            cherubim, with sleepless eye,
            veil their faces to the presence,
            as with ceaseless voice they cry:
            Alleluia, Alleluia,
            Alleluia, Lord Most High!

Therefore, like the shepherds and their friends, let us hear and be amazed, awe-struck and because we cannot fully comprehend the mystery, like the scientist and like Mary, let us ponder in our hearts. But most of all, let us listen – listen now, with the ears of the spirit, to the silent God particles at the centre of every human being and everything that is.

NOTES:

The Elizabethans believed that the stars and planets had their own sounds and made music:

“Look how the floor of heaven
Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold;
There's not the smallest orb which thou behold'st
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young-ey'd cherubins;
Such harmony is in immortal souls,
But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.”

Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare.